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By D. De Coppet, Daniel de Coppet

The six essays in figuring out Rituals learn ritual in the context of up to date social anthropology. They express how varied theoretical viewpoints bring about the typical trust that rituals now represent some of the most fertile fields of anthropological study. The participants' cross-cultural research hyperlinks the Vedic time to the current scenario in India; a West African society to Wittgenstein's theories; compares different modes of participation in a Nuba village of Sudan, in addition to the disagreement among Punjabi and English groups in a London suburb.

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Extra resources for Understanding Rituals (European Association of Social Anthropologists)

Sample text

Yama, in contrast, occupies his own place in the pantheon independent of Yam(: there are myths—accounts Brothers and sisters in Brahmanic India 39 of the origins of rites—in which he appears without any reference to the one who makes him what his name says he is, a twin. Apart from Yama and Yam(, the brother-sister relationship receives only rare and passing mention in the texts of ancient India, whether in religious or literary works or in that enormous mass of literature which is simultaneously one and the other.

In other stanzas the two singers asked Yoamia questions about something that, at first, seemed paradoxical—the secret of making millet cakes (a staple for the Gurmanceba). No one who has read Jaulin’s (1967) book on initiation will be surprised to learn that my fieldwork turned up a whole series of equivalences between the way men ‘made’ new initiates and female procreation and food 32 Understanding rituals preparation. Although I shall not dwell on this, I would like to mention that, once I began to grasp the song’s general meaning, the theoretical question raised by noticing that ‘rites correspond to each other’ seemed increasingly complicated.

I am already aware that the novices are joined together in twin couples, and I know too that the placenta, dealt with in a very sophisticated way, is the newborn’s twin. Furthermore, I remember having seen a few staffs at birth rites. Although I do not ask my informant for further elucidation, given that I am already overwhelmed by his way of treating the number two, he announces as if it were obvious that one of the staffs at the boys’ initiation is associated with the baby’s ‘second’, which is the placenta.

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